Monday, November 1, 2010

Sunday Dinner Questionnaire: Jared Bishop

Jared picks his home-grown hops, Summer 2010.

Jared Bishop is an artistbrewmaster, and an expert bread-maker, in addition to being a great friend to this blog.  We have been stunned to hear how many of you have revealed your secret passion for beer brewing after reading posts about Jared's award-winning beer.  (It has been equally amusing to hear how many of you have beer-brewing kits taking up space in your garages and attics!)

We'll be filing a report on Jared's next batch of Pale Ale as soon as it's ready, but in the meantime, I hope you'll enjoy his responses to our OFFICIAL SUNDAY DINNER QUESTIONNAIRE.  Now that we've read this questionnaire, we suspect that eating a meal at Jared and Amy's house has much the same feeling that Jared had at his mother's table when he was growing up.  We are deeply grateful to Jared for his passionate responses and generous policy regarding drop-in visitors at brewing time.

1.  What is your favorite food to eat?  Why?
The bacon cheddar cheeseburger I've developed to complement my recipe for Pale Ale. Forget these new "gourmet" burger places with lines out the door and $8 pints. For my taste, and money,  the burger-and-beer thing is best served in my own garden. I just feel like we have the perfect set up. We always invite somebody over when we have burger, but it's rare that anyone can make it. Folks are just tooooo busy!

2.  What is your favorite food to cook?  How often and under what
circumstances do you make it?
I like baking bread and pies.  I bake either a french, rye, or whole wheat bread about once a week. I love baking pumpkin pie whenever I can get a fresh sugar pumpkin.  Luckily I grew them this year.

3.  Who or what is your greatest culinary influence?  Why is he/she/it an
inspiration to you?
I've learned about cooking from several people, including my wife, my mom, and a college housemate who got me started. For inspiration, whatever ingredients are freshest, locally grown, and seasonal are the best things to plan a meal around. This usually means the vegetables I can harvest from my garden. Having constraints like that forces me to be creative. It's impossible to make decisions when you have infinite possibilities.

4.  What is your favorite kitchen utensil and why do you love it?
Our chef's knife. We have a hand-forged Japanese knife, and the craftsmanship is obvious in the look and feel. It's much lighter and easier to use than the more popular German knives.

5.  What did you eat for dinner this past weekend?
We had the famous burgers...and also homemade pizza. We had awesome burritos up in Ventura. I ordered chile verde pork and Amy got birria. I guess it wasn't a healthy weekend. But we also got a lot of exercise.

6.  When you were growing up, did you eat Sunday dinner or another meal that brought your friends and family together on a regular basis?  If so, what you you eat?
We had dinner together every night. I talk more about it in #9.

7.  Do you have a garden?  If so, what do you grow in it?
Yes! Other than hops, I raise vegetables that are either hard to find in the market or whose quality can't be matched by any store. My favorite crops are tomatoes in the summer, and peas in the winter. But I've also had great success with lettuce, broccoli rabe, swiss chard, pak choi, sugar pumpkin, and zucchini. I have some strawberry plants that produce the sweetest fruit I've ever tasted, unfortunately I don't get much yield from them.

8.  What is your ultimate food fantasy?
I'd like to cook a top-quality meal for my closest friends where all the ingredients were gathered/grown by myself and the guests. So that means home grown veggies, fish caught locally from the Pacific or the mountain streams, homebrew beer and wine, and meat from hunted game...we live in a place where despite the overwhelming concrete blight,  its possible to do this in the surrounding area. Some things would have to come from "outside contractors," of course, like the barley for the beer and most of the dairy products.

9.  If you could choose to have any person living or dead prepare a meal for
you, who would it be?  What would you want to eat?
This is a deeply evocative question, because I just lost my mom a few months ago to lung cancer. She was a wonderful cook. She prepared traditional American family food, things like meatloaf, chicken with rice,  lasagna.... meals that aren't "hip" any more....with absolute perfection and care. When I was a kid, I looked forward to her dinners every evening and I couldn't stand having meals at other kids' houses. The food was never as satisfying as what my mom made; it was lacking something, or it was burned, or I didn't get enough to eat. But it was impolite to turn down an invitation, and the families could be really insistent sometimes. So I had a system worked out with my mom: when I was invited to dinner at a friend's house, I would call home and ask for "permission" and my mom would say no. They must have thought she was so mean, and I still feel badly about it.

We never had junk food or soda in the house. Cakes, cookies, and other treats were baked from scratch. I'm grateful for that, because I never developed a taste for soda (I find it cloyingly sweet) or potato chips,doritos, etc (is that stuff even food?) and many other products that don't help with our country's obesity problem. My mom taught me about moderation. When you eat a cookie, eat a real cookie, with all the butter, chocolate, and sugar that are supposed to be in there, and enjoy the thing...just don't enjoy them too often. She couldn't stand fat free, sugar free, flavor free crap, and neither can I.

There are two things my mom cooked that were unmatchable as far as I'm concerned. Her meatballs and her turkey stuffing. I have the meatball recipe, but I can't for the life of me recreate what she did. And the turkey stuffing, well, I'm afraid that one might be lost to the ages. So if I could have this wish granted, I'd ask to eat one of those things with her again.

10.  Fill in the blank:  "The most important element of a good meal is________________." 
Good company and conversation. I've had meals at Taco Bell with the right people that were far more enjoyable than some extravagant spreads I've endured with the wrong ones.